If saving or spending less money tops your list of things to do, we’re here to help. Here are our top 10 tips to get started:
1. Set a budget
Start by listing the money you spent and what you spent it on over the past three months to get a monthly average. Compare that to what you bring home. You should be spending less than what you earn, with a healthy chunk (think 20%) dedicated to a retirement plan, an emergency fund and paying off any debt. Cut, trim, and shave your non-essential expenses to make your money work hard for you. Be sure to check out your free 1st United Money Manager – it’s an excellent tool to use for budgeting.
2. Pay yourself first
You are your most important asset. This year, try increasing the contribution you make to your 401(k) or other tax-advantaged savings account, like an IRA. Increasing your contribution by even 1% makes a small difference in your paycheck, but your retirement will thank you. Next year and every year thereafter, do the same. Your savings will grow quickly.
3. Stop impulse spending
Sounds easy, right? We know it’s not. Try to avoid using your credit card for routine small purchases in order to pay down your debt without adding to it. Sit down with your three-month assessment and see where you can trim. Cutting costs doesn’t have to be dramatic. Small cuts to your expenses can add up to big savings. Do you need that magazine subscription or second latte?
4. Utilize automatic transfers
Using online banking, you can schedule automatic transfers to a savings account with 1st United or another financial institution. Set it and forget it to see your savings add up quickly.
5. Stay active
If you’re like many Americans, losing weight or getting fit also made your resolution list. Remember that being healthy can be a very budget-conscious move. You don’t have to join expensive gyms to get in shape, especially in California where we have a more moderate climate. Meet friends at a local park, lake or trail. Exercising with a group is a great way to get motivated and get outside!
6. Reuse it
Invest in a stylish $5 water bottle and refill it instead of using a plastic bottled water. It’s not only budget friendly, but environmentally friendly, too. And, you look good doing it.
7. Eat cheap
Cooking at home and choosing healthy options can be very pocket- and family- friendly. Be adventurous and find new recipes online that are simple and healthy. You may even have food leftover to pack for lunch, saving you even more money. At $5-10 a day, brown bagging could save you nearly $2,000 a year!
8. Date night exchange
Instead of paying that babysitter, set up a date night exchange. You can swap nights out with another couple. Your kids will love the adventure and at today’s babysitting costs, you’ll save a bundle.
9. Install a programmable thermostat
Running the heat or air conditioning unnecessarily can push up your monthly costs very quickly if you are not careful. A programmable thermostat allows you to better regulate the temperature in your home as well as to set the heater and air conditioning to only go on during the times when someone is home, saving money in the process.
10. Cancel old subscriptions
Check your bank and credit card statements regularly to be sure there aren’t old subscriptions or recurring charges for services you no longer use. If you are being billed for a gym membership but never go, it’s time to cancel.
With a little effort and a lot of commitment, you’ll see positive changes in you and your wallet in no time. Happy New Year and good luck!